Daily human conversations, whether spoken, written or recorded, represent an invaluable source of organic data for businesses. These word exchanges have significant potential to provide contextual insights that influence elements of an organisation’s operations.

Unstructured conversations provide meaningful context around customer concerns, preferences and priorities. Historically, this data has been difficult to mine, but advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) now enable a comprehensive, large-scale analysis of conversations. AI analyses unstructured data on a much greater scale than humans are capable of to help us comprehend the discussion’s content more deeply. A more granular understanding enables leaders to make more informed decisions, generating better outcomes for businesses and customers.

Organisations are deep into 2024 planning, strategising how to meet customer expectations next year and beyond.Here’s how companies can start capitalising on customer conversations to pave the way for sharper customer focus and a better CX.

1. Remain relevant

For decades, the CX industry adjusted and modified the survey technology to address these pain points, swapping mail surveys in favor of online, SMS, telephone reviews and ratings — and everything in between. But people still ignore requests to take a survey, and those who do are providing feedback on merely a snapshot in time. 

These innovations in customer listening haven’t fixed the heart of the problem: customers expect us to listen to them when they’re struggling and succeeding. Advancements in AI and natural language processing (NLP) are empowering CX leaders to uncover the value of listening to customers’ voices. 

For example, imagine a hospital system seeking a better understanding of the root causes resulting in patient frustrations with prescriptions — specifically refills — the top call driver fielded by the nurse triage team. Using AI to analyse over 21,000 calls in three months, the organisation’s leadership identified five sources of patient friction:

  • Appointment timing for refills
  • Incorrect pharmacy information
  • Medication shortages
  • Action needed from the provider’s office
  • Prescription errors

The organisation used these insights to create and inform a cross-functional team to implement a new strategy. Within two months, total calls dropped (and refill calls decreased by 3%).

Organisations must prioritise listening to customer conversations over the traditional, conventional survey-based approach to capture what customers are really saying (and what they aren’t). Thanks to AI, technology exists to read into specific word choices, nuances in tone and volume and much more. We’ll see new metrics for measuring authentic customer voices emerge — like a measurement of friction or frustration.

2. Keep pace

AI tools promise more strategic decision-making for organisations navigating today’s rapidly-evolving business landscape. Generative AI solutions can quickly process volumes of unstructured conversational data, unlocking greater speed and accuracy in understanding customer frustrations, preferences and expectations. 

These decisive pivots, informed by data-driven insights into customer relationships, can drive higher first-call resolutions, lower churn and strengthen loyalty over the long term. In fact, organisations using conversational intelligence to understand customer frustrations more granularly cite a 25% increase in first-call resolution rates — and a decrease of 10% in customer churn.

3. Empower employees

Empowering frontline staff with AI provides benefits beyond improving operations and customer support — it serves as a tool for employee development and training. By creating efficiencies, AI tools open opportunities for more meaningful interactions and intentional support for customers and teammates.

For example, conversational AI could provide frontline teams with ongoing automated, self-service performance feedback captured during each customer interaction. Ongoing coaching gives employees the timely input they want, empowering them to find meaning in their work. 

Communication skills and customer service training are critical for frontline call center agents. By listening at scale, organisations can prepare their employees more effectively to navigate a complex process of helping customers with questions and providing clear direction and answers. 

Agent training and support can include:

  • Recreating complex scenarios
  • Using scripts to guide conversations
  • Locating common brand resources for quick, easy reference
  • Updating processes to reduce steps
  • Adding self-service options or resources for callers

4. Tell data-backed stories

Increased digitalisation is enabling the collection of unimaginably vast amounts of data, with experts estimating that over 200 zettabytes of data will live in the cloud worldwide by 2025.  Organisations face challenges in efficiently and effectively collecting, compiling, analysing and presenting insights gleaned from data to teams and leaders in a way that makes sense and drives change. 

The current perception of storytelling — using data visualisation — is evolving. Business leaders have realised the value of connecting customer insights to audiences’ heads and hearts. Making this connection with intention generates action.

This deluge of data will require organisations to increase their skill in data-backed storytelling to:

  • Extract meaning from trends
  • Provide proper context around data points
  • Use insights to advise strategic next steps

As we move into 2024, leaders will continue seeking data-backed storytellers equipped with the research and knowledge to uncover customer stories, the ability to develop powerful narratives from those stories, and the creativity and presence to deliver those stories as catalysts for kindling action and outcomes.

Rather than relying on a flat presentation of analytics, impactful leaders will embrace the power of storytelling to interpret complex datasets to drive informed decision-making organisation-wide. To this end, a 10.5% increase in budget allocation for AI solutions in 2024 is anticipated.

Welcome to the future

Forward-thinking companies are approaching AI adoption with a strong sense of purpose and responsibility because they’ve recognised that AI’s value lies far beyond its ability to automate tasks and ease human effort. Its merit lies in its ability to harness the power of customer voices, capturing insights gleaned from this unstructured data.

Customer conversations hold the potential to solve many business problems. 2024 is a wake-up call for organisations to embrace AI technology that facilitates true, active listening. 

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